Diyala Police in Election Crackdown

By Aqil Jabbar in Baaqubah (ICR No. 100, 25-Jan-05)

Diyala Police in Election Crackdown

By Aqil Jabbar in Baaqubah (ICR No. 100, 25-Jan-05)

Friday, 18 November, 2005

The two policemen were killed on January 25 by a mortar round while protecting a building which had only just been publicly designated a polling station. Baaqubah's main hospital said three others were wounded.

Captain Sallah Abdul Satar, of the Diyala province police force, said nine militants have now been arrested in connection with a similar bombing a day earlier at a Baaqubah polling facility. There were no casualties in that attack, though more than half the building was destroyed.

The police captain said his men are also concentrating on cleaning up the main streets in the city and monitoring “saboteurs” who post signs urging a boycott during the night.

The campaign to track down militants and rid the city of the anti-election posters is part of a larger security push leading up to the elections.

Baaqubah is part of the so-called Sunni Triangle, where Iraqi and United-States-led forces have faced fierce resistance from insurgents. American troops are rarely seen during the day, but the rumbling of tanks can be heard throughout the night, and helicopters overfly the city.

Curfews will be in place in many parts of Iraq, and in this city the police have been given tough guidelines. “We have orders to shoot anyone in the streets of the city after 9 pm, and arrest anyone we find between 7 pm and 9 pm,” said Satar.

The streets of the city now empty of people by 6 pm, as security forces and gunmen clash amid the thunder of explosions and shootings.

Police and Iraqi National Guard forces have removed the doors of their vehicles so they can sit at the ready, their rifles pointed outside. They roar through the streets in convoys of four or five vehicles, using sirens to clear the way before them.

The Iraqi security forces hide their faces behind black hoods and dark glasses so they cannot be recognised by local residents.

“If my fellow residents discover I work with the police it will create problems, first of all for my family,” said a policeman who identified himself only as Abu Fatima.

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.

Aqil Jabbar is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
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